What’s Happening to America’s Churches?
They're disappearing in masses!
Change is a constant part of life. Many American cities that were bursting at the seams a century ago have been altered dramatically by suburban sprawl. This has led to empty buildings and desolate neighborhoods that were once the center of activity.
A hundred years ago, the neighborhood church was often viewed as the focal point of the area. The church would foster community, help immigrants, and obviously provide faith and guidance to its members. As the neighborhoods changed, so did the churches. Many of these once bustling sanctuaries were left with empty pews as people left these once beloved areas. Empty pews mean smaller coffers. While the goal of a church is not to make money, one cannot stay open if the bills aren’t covered. It is reported that 6,000 to 10,000 churches are closing every year.
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The Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church off 13th Street between 6th & 7th Avenue, originally built on 1846, burned down in 1855, rebuilt, and burned down again in 1902. Then, in 1972, it was converted into a condominium! You’d never know it though. The church’s wrought iron gate remains, and so does the message board– where the schedule of services would normally appear – simply saying “141-143-145” to indicate the addresses of the apartments within. Had no idea of its rocky history or the 15 apartments housed inside the building.
When the lights have dimmed as these churches have become financially unsustainable, many are being repurposed. While the function has changed, much of the beauty of these churches remains. Many of these properties have significant value. Selling the property allows the church to settle its debt and perhaps bring the Word of God to another neighborhood.
Developers are looking to maintain the architectural beauty of these churches as they find new life as condominiums or business centers.
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Light will still beautifully beam through stained glass but now in someone’s home. And while it may seem melancholy that these buildings of worship are no longer used for their original purposes, it’s much more satisfying to see this than to have them reduced to rubble. After all, the beauty of the architecture and decor still rings of religion and perhaps it will inspire others to be led back to God.
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The halls of these churches were once filled with the sound of choirs singing of God’s love. While that music has been silenced, the memories will always remain and inspire.